June 10th, 2007

I think I’ve said before, probably on a previous blog, that one of the things that concerns me most about China’s future is water.

Well, the Taihu crisis appears to be over. Now they’re keeping an eye on Chaohu. Apparently there’s a small algal bloom there, but it’s not threatening anyone’s water supply. But still, there are a few things in that article that have alarms ringing in the back of my mind:

“A woman who’s been working for years at a waterside restaurant said the algae along the banks was actually “thinner” than the previous years. And a speed boat runner gave a nod.”

Well, I’ll resist the temptation to make snarky remarks about the “speed boat runner”. but this woman’s remark suggests that algal blooms in Chaohu are actually quite common and that it’s only drawing attention this year because of the Taihu crisis. Confirmation comes later:

“Xiao Pu, a local environment official in Chaohu, said the lake suffers algae bloom every June and July and he saw no sign of deterioration this year.”

Aha. So it is a very common occurence. In fact, according to this article, Chaohu suffered a massive algal bloom back in 2004.

“But Zhang Zhiyuan warns there could still be chances for massive algae bloom in Chaohu Lake, which has suffered high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus for years. “It’s not possible to eradicate all the algae anytime soon.””

“…high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus for years.” Yep, that would cause serious problems with water quality. Makes you wonder just how local tap water supplies manage to meet the national standard.

Well, clearly the best thing to come out of the Taihu crisis is increased attention to the health of China’s lakes and rivers. I just hope that attention lasts and is translated into action. As it is, one third of China’s rural residents have no access to safe drinking water. That’s 300 million people- the population of the United States, more or less, if you prefer your statistics in that form.

“Some 300 million rural residents are coping with unsafe drinking water, while more than 133,333 hectares of farmland are covered by trash heaps or garbage dumps,”

Thus spake Wu Xiaoqing, vice minister of the State Environmental Protection Administration. Well, it’s not much of an article, that one, just the usual quick review of China’s massive problems with environmental pollution as they apply to the water supply in rural areas. I like the last quote, though:

“Environmental pollution in some areas has led to a sharp rise in cases of certain diseases, and farmland irrigated with polluted water and overuse of farm pesticide in other areas have worsened the quality and quantity of farm crops”

It’s not good to have one third of the rural population with no access to clean water. And thanks to Taihu, the threats to the urban water supply have become very, very clear indeed. So far there’s no sign of the situation improving, only talk of how bad it is and occasional first aid when things like the Taihu crisis happen. And so you see why it’s water that scares me most.

[update: More on the Taihu crisis.]

2 Responses to “æ°´”

  1. Ben Says:

    Thanks for the info…I guess as long as I keep reboiling my urine and drinking it over and over, I should be able to wait this one out.

  2. wangbo Says:

    I think you’ll need a new plan. Reboiling your urine is going to leave you with a pile of urea to drink before to long. Not too good if you were wanting to avoid dehydration.